I was invited to participate in the Pew Center on the Internet and American Life’s survey on the Future of the Internet, and they gave us a link to the online results this morning.
Net-net: it’s almost a 50-50 split on whether young people will be positively or negatively affected by their always-on environments.
Half the respondents think that by 2020 the brains of young people will be wired differently, making them short term thinkers, multi-taskers, and instant gratification junkies who can’t retain information and lack face-to-face personal skills.
The other half think that although the brains of young adults will be wired differently, “they do not suffer notable cognitive shortcomings as they multitask and cycle quickly through personal- and work-related tasks. Rather, they are learning more and they are more adept at finding answers to deep questions, in part because they can search effectively and access collective intelligence via the internet. In sum, the changes in learning behavior and cognition among the young generally produce positive outcomes.”
So we did a big study of “experts,” — meaning invited participants, not random participants — and the outcomes is “nobody knows.”
There was consistency on one thing: the brains of millennials are adapting to their environment. You would hope so. Otherwise,we’d be discrediting Darwin.
Also, the most desirable life skills in the future will be “public problem-solving through cooperative work (sometimes referred to as crowd-sourcing solutions); the ability to search effectively for information online and to be able to discern the quality and veracity of the information one finds and then communicate these findings well (referred to as digital literacy); synthesizing (being able to bring together details from many sources); being strategically future-minded; the ability to concentrate; and the ability to distinguish between the “noise” and the message in the ever-growing sea of information.”
Oh, and lest we forget: education has to change.